Abraham Lincoln & The American Civil Religion

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Abraham Lincoln & The American Civil Religion

  1. 1. ABRAHAM LINCOLN & THE AMERICAN CIVIL RELIGION How Lincoln expressed “ American Exceptionalism ” and how he became an icon. Karen S. Campbell
  2. 2. LINCOLN The Icon The apotheosis of the man.
  3. 4. The Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D. C. was inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. A temple located at the heart of the first democracy inspired the memorial to an American secular saint located at the heart of the world’s greatest democracy.
  4. 6. Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore
  5. 7. Spider-Man Magazine #9
  6. 8. Abraham Lincoln The Man Springfield 1860
  7. 9. Abraham Lincoln The President Honor, duty, and illness take their toll. Colorized version of black and white photograph taken by Alexander Gardner four days before Lincoln’s death. The Physical Lincoln: Photo-Medical Solution to the Puzzle of Abraham Lincoln's Height, Face, Pseudo-Depression, and Imminent Cancer Death . by John G. Sotos, MD
  8. 10. The nation was a house divided. Churches split into northern and southern branches over slavery. Families were divided by the war. The Lincoln family was decimated by the war. <ul><li>The Todd family is divided by the war. </li></ul><ul><li>Mary Lincoln is ravaged by the press. </li></ul><ul><li>Willie Lincoln dies February 20th, 1862 in the White House </li></ul><ul><li>Abraham Lincoln is assassinated on Good Friday, April 15 th -16 th , 1865. </li></ul><ul><li>Tad (Thomas Lincoln) dies at the age of 18 in 1871. </li></ul><ul><li>After the White House years, Mary’s relationship with her oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln is destroyed. </li></ul>
  9. 11. <ul><li>I shall do all that may be in my power to promote a peaceful settlement of our difficulties. The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am. None who would do more to preserve it. But it may be necessary to put the foot down firmly. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>~~ Abraham Lincoln to the New Jersey General Assembly at Trenton, New Jersey, February 21st, 1861 ( Collection Work of Abraham Lincoln , 4:236-37) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 12. The illusiveness of peace and of an end to the excruciatingly bloody American Civil War would plunge Lincoln into a deep inward search to understand the will of a compassionate but enigmatic God.
  11. 13. What was the purpose of the excruciating suffering of the war?
  12. 16. Richmond, Virginia
  13. 18. 12,913 prisoners at Andersonville Prison died and were buried in mass graves.
  14. 19. 275,200 wounded 137,000+ wounded
  15. 20. <ul><li>At least 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War, and some experts say the toll reached 700,000. The number that is most often quoted is 620,000. </li></ul><ul><li>        The Union armies had from 2,500,000 to 2,750,000 men. </li></ul><ul><li>Their losses: </li></ul><ul><li>Battle deaths: 110,070 </li></ul><ul><li>Disease, etc.: 250,152 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Total: 360,222 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>        The Confederate strength, known less accurately because of missing records, was from 750,000 to 1,250,000. </li></ul><ul><li>Its estimated losses: </li></ul><ul><li>Battle deaths: 94,000 Disease, etc.: 164,000 Total: 258,000 </li></ul>
  16. 21. This dust was once the man, Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand, Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age, Was saved the Union of these States.
  17. 22. Through his deep reflection, Lincoln, a man who never formally joined any church, would become the great articulator of the American sense of purpose and its mission to enlighten the world, often referred to as the “ American Civil Religion. ” His belief centered on America as an instrument of Providence to fill the world with the light of democracy. He would become for many the “ Theologian of American Anguish ” as christened by Quaker minister David Elton Trueblood. One can see the similarities between Lincoln’s “ anguish ” and the inner “ Lamb’s War ” of Quaker contemplation; an intense meditative way of seeking God’s will in the immediate moment. Indeed, Lincoln’s spirituality seems very Quaker-like. But, it can also be said that his spirituality is very Unitarian or Universalist-like . Drawing by Lloyd Ostendorf of Dayton, Ohio
  18. 23. The following is one of his reflections, which Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, in September of 1862, saved for posterity. This short personal reflection that Lincoln had left laying on his writing desk in the White House is about the nature of God’s will; a will which is different from humanity’s will: John Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln, and John Hay
  19. 24. The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party; and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to affect his purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true; that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power on the minds of the contestants, he could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun, he could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds (September 30th, 1862) .
  20. 25. These same thoughts are repeated, and are refined, in his brilliant “ Second Inaugural Address ”:
  21. 26. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.
  22. 27. The Almighty has His own purposes. &quot;Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.&quot; If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said &quot;the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.&quot;
  23. 28. <ul><li>With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>~~ March 4, 1865 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>Statue is located in Richmond, Virginia
  24. 29. The “ Will of God ” is to be found in the flow of events which are generated by human instruments inspired by God to behave in certain ways. Lincoln had honed his sense of destiny with his lawyer’s logic and politician’s knack for understanding where the people were politically from moment to moment. He said, &quot; Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed .” Members of the public in a democracy constitute a collective instrument of God. And, Lincoln thought of himself as an instrument of God struggling to follow God’s will through his contemplation of the events of the war and his assessment of popular opinion. Lincoln’s statement that &quot; I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me&quot; is a statement of faith because God is in command of those events and the instruments that cause them. Taken by Alexander Gardner in Washington on April 26, 1864
  25. 30. The Two Great Evangelical Spiritual Awakenings 1730s-1760s ~ A religious revival known as the First Great Awakening begins to burn an enthusiastic path through New England, and the Mid-Atlantic States and the South. The influence of the revival is also felt in Canada and in England and Europe. In the American Colonies it began in the Presbyterian/Congregational churches of New England, but the intensity of the revival would affect almost everyone, north and south. The charismatic and emotional preaching of George Whitefield , a Methodist minister from England who embraced Calvinistic doctrine, was extremely popular. George Whitefield is considered one of the primary founders of the Evangelical Movement. First Great Awakening (1730-1760)
  26. 32. Dr. Squintum's Exaltation or the Reformation, 1763 (previous slide) The extraordinarily popular missionary tours of the Reverend George Whitefield triggered a trans-Atlantic Great Awakening of religion in the mid-eighteenth century. He was often called &quot; Dr. Squintum ,&quot; the name of an enthusiastic preacher in a popular play satirizing some of the more extreme elements in Methodist revivals. The play criticized the evangelical appeal to passions. For Whitefield, true religion was a matter of the heart--an emotional embrace of Christ--rather than a rational assent to a body of dogma. Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, #C-USZ62-108255. A more conventional view of Rev. Whitefield.
  27. 33. Whitefield preaching
  28. 34. August 1801 ~ The Cane Ridge Revival , part of the Great Kentucky Revival (part of the Second Great Awakening ) takes place in northern Kentucky. 25,000 attend and are deeply affected by the experience. The Christian Church of Barton Stone and the Disciples of Christ of Alexander Campbell grow out of this “ American Pentecost ”. Early adherents to the“ Restoration Movement ” went by a variety of names: “ New Lights ”, “ Campbellites ”, “ Restorationers ”, “ Christadelphias ”, “ Primitive Christians ”, “ Church of God ”, and so on. Both Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell were ex-Presbyterian ministers and southerners who owned slaves. They freed their slaves. Second Great Awakening (1790-1840) Cane Ridge Meetinghouse, Paris, Kentucky
  29. 35. Camp Meeting. Color lithograph by Kennedy and Lucas, after a painting by A. Rider, ca. 1835, negative number 26275. Collection of the New York Historical Society, New York City.
  30. 36. In her book Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labours of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw , an African-American women preacher, she describes a camp meeting which was held in the back woods of the interior: “ In the space before the platform, seats are placed sufficient to seat four or five thousand persons ; and at night the woods are illuminated; there are generally four large mounds of earth constructed, and on them large piles of pine knots are collected and ignited, which make a wonderful blaze and burn a long time; there are also candles and lamps hung about in the trees, together with a light in every tent, and the minister’s stand is brilliantly lighted up; so that the illumination attendant upon a camp-meeting, is a magnificently solemn scene. The worship commences in the morning before sunrise; the watchmen proceed round the enclosure, blowing with trumpets to awaken every inhabitants of this City of the Lord : they then proceed again round the camp, to summon the inmates of every tent to their family devotions; after which they partake of breakfast, and are again summoned by sound of trumpet to public prayer meeting at the altar which is placed in front of the preaching stand. Many precious souls are on these occasions introduced into the liberty of the children of God ; at the close of the prayer meeting the grove is teeming with life and activity; the numberless private conference, the salutations of old friend again meeting in the flesh, the earnest inquires of sinners, the pressing exhortations of anxious saints, the concourse of pedestrians, the arrival of horses and carriages of all descriptions render the scene portentously interesting and intensely surprising.
  31. 37. At ten 0’clock, the trumpets sound again to summon the people to public worship; the seats are all speedily filled and as perfect a silence reigns throughout the place as in a Church or Chapel; presently the high praises of God sound melodiously from this consecrated spot, and nothing seems wanting but local elevation to render the place a heaven indeed . It is like God’s ancient and holy hill of Zion on her brightest festival days, when the priests conducted the processions of people to the glorious temple of Jehovah .”
  32. 40. In Between the Two Great Awakening Revivals was the American Revolution and the Establishment of the United States. The two Awakenings are like bookends to the Revolution.
  33. 41. The beleaguered Americans during the darkest days of the Revolution were assured that “we have incontestable evidence, that God Almighty, with all the powers of heaven, are on our side. Great numbers of angels, no doubt, are encamping round our coast, for our defense and protection. Michael stands ready; with all the artillery of heaven, to encounter the dragon, and to vanquish this black host.” In-other-words, the revolution was a just, perhaps even a holy war; a war to defend civil and personal freedom and also to defend the newly found freedom of God’s church, the “ ecclesia ”, from the machinations of European politics and clerical control. Consequently, the Anti-Christ was no longer thought of as the classic embodiment of heresy, heterodoxy, or non-conventional beliefs. It became “ Tyranny ” itself, in this case, the oppression of England. According to American revolutionary political theology, the survival of the new Republic would play a role in the history of salvation as well as secular history During the Revolution the image of “the woman in the wilderness” from the Book of Revelation had taken on another, more political, meaning. Seeking religious liberty from the bondage and servitude of sin would take on an additional layer of meaning; liberty from civil tyranny. Congregational minister Samuel Sherwood (1730–1783) gave the most famous sermon of the revolutionary era concerning the millennial theme in politics, “The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness” in January of 1776.
  34. 42. Rev. Samuel Sherwood St. Michael defends “ ecclesia ” from the dragon, “ Tyranny .”
  35. 43. The two Great Awakenings , in a sense, “ frame ” the American Revolution and the developing Republican and Democratic beliefs rooted in the Enlightenment values of freedom and individual human worth; a “ civic millennialism .” It is summed up in the Declaration of Independence that <ul><ul><li>“ all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .” </li></ul></ul>“ the golden apple ” ~ faith in the unalienable Rights of human beings
  36. 44. “ The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government and consequent prosperity. The assertion of that principle , at that time, was the word &quot;fitly spoken&quot; which has proven an &quot;apple of gold&quot; to us. The Union and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal , or destroy the apple; but to adorn and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple -- not the apple for the picture. So let us act, that neither picture , nor apple shall ever be blurred, bruised or broken .” ~Abraham Lincoln, Fragmentary Writing, c. 1858, (&quot; A Meditation on Proverbs 25:11 &quot;) Lincoln quotes the Bible to help him phrase his political thought: “ A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver ”, Proverbs 25:11.
  37. 45. Abraham Lincoln’s masterful definition of the moral foundation of the nation and the role of the United States as the beacon of democracy and freedom to the world and as the advocate for universal human rights, which is known as the great American Civil Religion/Theology, is a moral theism devoid of sectarian conflict and anger and liberal in its all-inclusive embrace of religious diversity. It is a unique combination of religious and political faith that developed because of the Separation of Church and State in our culture.

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